October is not only the month when autumn shows its brightest colors, a last hooray before the usually gray November and winter coming, but it is also the month of one of the most interesting festivals in Helsinki and Finland at the moment: Blowup Vol. 3 brought bands you do not get to see live too often to Korjaamo for a weekend full of tunes ranging from doom to psychedelic on October 13-14.
Culture factory Korjaamo provided the perfect setting for these two days with the old trams framing the stage and its enchanting backyard. Indoors, details like the backdrop visuals, the exhibition - this year by Tekla Vály - and special drinks like 'Doomtea' completed the offerings, and create a wholesome atmosphere along with the music. The distinct band selection drew a diverse audience from all walks of the metal universe - something you do not see at shows often enough which is one of the charms of this festival.
Friday evening started in a quite mystical way with Phurpa. While the audience gathered, Phurpa got dressed on stage and the droning intro made it clear that this would be both a meta and a physical experience. Dressed in veiled hats on the brightly lit stage, Phurpa slowly started creating a world of their own, inviting the audience to join them. It was very crowded at the front, and as Phurpa were sitting down at first the occasional glimpse of a hat and the ends of the two dungchen was the only thing you saw from further back. During the set, luckily the audience shifted and for I while I got to see the various instruments being played and a smoke spirit rising into the air. But the visuals, even though intriguing, weren’t what mattered here most; it was the music, the vibrations that you just had to surrender to so you could dive in, never knowing what awaits at the next turn, every membrane inside you vibrating. The perfect start into this weekend, and truly something special to behold.
Phurpa (Photo by Marco Manzi)
Warning took to the stage next, and now it got really packed - something which wouldn’t change much for the rest of the weekend. Massive cheers and headbanging greeted the band who sent clouds of magnificent melancholy to rain down on us. The beauty and sadness lulled you in, a warm, welcome embrace. Music like a melancholic stroll over an autumn evening meadow, both light and heavy, hopeful and sad, bright and dark. You could wallow in this moment with delicate joy, floating along to Patrick Walker’s vocals. The crowd soaked up every moment. In between songs banter ensued between band and audience, but that didn’t break the spell the music had woven, and with songs like Bridges the evening continued.
Warning (Photo by Marco Manzi)
One of the aspects that makes me appreciate Blowup festival so much is that every band has its own unique, at times very different vibe but somehow all works together to paint one vibrant, colorful but still consistent picture. From the understated energy that Warning brought to the in-your-face-groove of Church of Misery, the mood changed completely: Riffs started bouncing around Korjaamo, and Hiroyuki Takano’s presence was that of a rock star: big sunglasses, big gestures and a contagious energy. Just the kick in the ass you needed to get into festival weekend mood, putting a smile on your face while you vibed along with the tunes, letting yourself be entertained by the stage show.
Church of Misery (Photo by Marco Manzi)
Usnea led us back onto a path of more darkness, creating an intense, almost threatening atmosphere. The droning vibrations could be felt even at the back of the room, and the vocal interplay of Joel Banishing and Justin Cory felt like hidden depths and rapids that you fell into and tumbled over on the murky waters of the capricious Usnea river that flowed under the burning sun of the backdrop that probably could hypnotize you if you just stared at it for too long.
Usnea (Photo by Marco Manzi)
Ufomammut were already the last band of the night and were greeted frantically. They kicked ass from the first second, a force to be reckoned with. The energy exchanged between band and crowd was tangible. Always such a thing of beauty to behold how music is flowing between band and audience that in rare moments seem to become one, pushing each other further and further. Urlo & Co. were clearly into the show, and they ended the first Blowup Vol. 3 evening on a high note that resonated throughout the night.
Ufomammut (Photo by Marco Manzi)
Saturday started with PH aka Mr. Peter Hayden. Being a few minutes late, the band was already on stage when I got to Korjaamo. Stepping inside from the cold autumn night, the music felt like a warm embrace into a magickal universe. Finally getting the chance to see a full show after the Tallinn Music Week showcase, I was instantly captured. Darkness and light, hopeful melancholy, dark and powerful vibes followed by quiet parts traveling in space, the band invisible only to rise again from the glowing dark under the guiding sun of the PH insignia. Moments of trance, lost in time were interrupted by flowing melodies, the music creating endless space to wander within that reached well beyond the walls of Korjaamo, at times floating on air only to find more solid rocky ground to continue the journey on.
PH (Photo by Marco Manzi)
The night continued with Domkraft, and my expectations were high. I had started listening to them a few days before the festival to check them out, and I was totally blown away from the first song. Somehow, I just clicked with the music and couldn’t stop vibing or listening, something that happens too rarely nowadays. So, I was very excited to also let myself be totally flashed by their live show. Maybe my expectations were just too high, but the show didn’t get me as much as the music did, perhaps because it was the second day or because the PH gig had been pretty powerful. Don’t get me wrong, I still thoroughly enjoyed the show, despite some tuning breaks, but it wasn’t the mind-altering experience I had hoped for. Still, intensity picked up during the show and the band was playing themselves into a frenzy. After wandering through celestial skies with PH, this felt like going deep underground, wandering around hidden caves, getting closer and closer to the heart beat of the universe’s droning core. So even if the gig maybe wasn't everything I had hoped for, to this day, I cannot stop listening to Domkraft and cannot wait to see them live again – my favorite festival discovery.
Domkraft (Photo by Marco Manzi)
Next up were Noothgrush, a much-awaited band for many and it was again packed. Dino Sommese completely went for it and exuded a violent energy that could even be felt lounging at the back of the hall, screaming his lungs out.
Noothgrush (Photo by Marco Manzi)
For the next band, it got even more crowded. Saint Vitus played not as the last band of the night as Dave Chandler had injured his foot, so they had switched places with Spiritus Mortis. And while Dave understandably didn’t move around too much, the others certainly did, delivering a full on energetic show. Dave on the other hand kept the audience entertained in between songs, demanding them to dance and go wild. And the crowd happily obliged, continuing to cheer and clap throughout the set, singing along. It seemed that for one rare moment in time everyone in that room was in a good mood, headbanging, enjoying the moment.
Saint Vitus (Photo by Marco Manzi)
Spiritus Mortis then ended the night, their last show with vocalist Sami Hynninen. Despite the late hour, energy was bursting off the stage, delivering a set full of groove, alternating between fast, slow, aggressive force and sadness, sending off the audience into the night with a mesmerized smile after two days of intense musical experiences, filled to the brim with impressions that would only fully unfold in the days to come.
Spiritus Mortis (Photo by Marco Manzi)
Check out the full photo gallery by Marco Manzi here.